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School system seeking more teachers for summer program

Beaufort County Schools’ administrators know the approximate number of students that will be participating in the district’s summer school program. Now, they are focusing on encouraging more of their teachers to take on summer classes.

In April, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a bill that that requires public school districts to offer in-person summer school courses targeted toward K-12 students whose academic performance has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation in the summer program is optional. Schools have identified students who are at risk of academic failure and prioritized them for enrollment in the program.

BCS Chief Academic Officer Andrea Lilley said the school has identified 1,002 students who fit the criteria, and principals say most of them have registered for summer courses.  Lilley told the school board on Tuesday night that the district still needed 15 teachers for the summer program.  That deficit could shrink in the days to come. Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman held a district-wide video call Wednesday morning in which he asked teachers and teacher assistants to consider working the summer program and gave them more details about what summer school will look like.

The summer courses will begin June 21 and end July 30. The program will include 150 hours of instruction.

Realizing that many teachers and staff members are “COVID-tired” and might be less willing to give up part of their summer break, BCS has elected to set the pay rate for teachers in the summer program at $40 per hour. That’s in addition to the $1,500 bonus teachers receive as an incentive for signing up for the program. The bill mandates a signing bonus of at least $1,200.

Cheeseman said BCS surveyed other districts throughout the region before setting its pay rate.

“At a daily rate of pay of $25 an hour, no districts were getting anyone to join, especially after COVID exhaustion, and people need time,” Cheeseman said. “So $40 an hour puts us right in the range to be competitive, as neighboring districts are looking into other districts as to how they can draw people into their summer school. And we want our teachers to teach our children, and we’re hoping that we don’t have to draw into other districts.

“When you go up straight toward the Virginia line, districts are paying anywhere between $35 an hour, $40, $50 dollars an hour,” Cheeseman added. “Some are even doing a daily rate plus $25.”

Cheeseman said the district is also looking at increasing the rate of pay for teacher assistants who work the summer program.

In terms of locations, Chocowinity Primary School will serve grades K-8; John Small Elementary School will serve grades K-3; P.S. Jones Middle School will serve grades 4-8; and Northeast Elementary will serve grades K-8.

High school students can take credit recovery courses this summer, and all of those will be conducted remotely.

“We initially planned for six sites,” Cheeseman said. “But because we don’t have the amount of teachers that we’re seeking and the numbers are actually higher than projected, we’re trying to bring the number of sites down and increase the volume of teachers.

Retired teachers are eligible to help with the summer program. Per state law, teachers who retire under the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System typically have to wait through a six-month separation-from-service period for their retirement to become effective. For teachers who retired between Dec. 1, 2020, and March 1, 2021, and want to work in the summer program, that period will be shortened to one month.